‘Japanese Spider-Man’ Episode 3: ‘Mysterious Thief 001 vs. Spider-Man!’
Chris: Happy New Year everyone, and welcome back to Spider-Man Japan! It's a whole new year for ComicsAlliance's in-depth review of Toei's Supaidaman TV series, and to celebrate, we're kicking things off with a whole new villain for everyone's favorite international webslinger: Phantom Thief 001!
Caleb: Numbers make everything better.
Caleb: This episode is a brief departure from the standard Japanese Spider-Man formula, with our hero facing off against a fellow human, though an awesome "Machine Bem" is still on hand for maximum monster growage.
Chris: Be honest with me, Caleb: Was "Maximum Monster Growage" the name of your screamo band, or just their first album?
Caleb: ...it was a b-side to a side project. You've, uh, probably never heard of it...
Chris: "Maximum Monster Growage! The new single from Phantom Thief 001! Available on CD-R at local record stores!"
Caleb: Or from my '86 powder blue Honda Civic hatchback. Whatevs.
Chris: Before we get started, I have to say that this episode does not waste a lot of time. When we reviewed the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Christmas episode, we talked a little bit about how that show often felt so padded, even though it was only 20 minutes long. Supaidaman, however, just hits the ground running. Or the wall, as the case may be.
Caleb: This episode's budget even seems more robust than past episodes, taking place in more than a handful of locations and starring multiple unique actors.
Chris: Truly, it is the Avatar of Japanese Spider-Man episodes.
Caleb: The second I went to wipe a dust mote away from my eyes, even though I knew I was wearing 3D shades, I knew we'd arrived in the future, Chris.
Chris: Put your 3D Glasses on now, everybody, and let's get into Episode 3!
Caleb: In the middle of the night, a masked thief (who semi-resembles a Foot Clan soldier from the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies) scales a skyscraper, cuts into a window with an X-Acto knife, and stealthily pops out the glass with one of those giant suction cups you can only buy wholesale from the Spy section at Costco. This guy and the flashlight tied to his head know what they're doing.
Chris: I have to say, I was a little disappointed to realize that this was, in fact, Phantom Thief 001. Like you said, he basically looks like he bought his thievin' gear out of the Bud K catalog, and with a name like that, I was expecting someone who was at least as visually interesting as your average Phoenix Wright character. And I'm not the only one who's disappointed, either.
Caleb: A few seconds in to cracking a safe, Phantom Thief is ambushed by like two dozen cops. Their fearless leader unmasks him in front of his posse, and the guy seriously starts to weep. On the way to the police station, the detective basically smacks the perp upside his head and chastises him for being such a wuss. After all, he's supposed to be awesome. Where does he get off whining?
Chris: I really love that the detective gives this dude the hairy eyeball for not being as dashing as he expected from a guy who's been eluding the police for weeks. He's disappointed in him for not acting like a super-villain, which means that the police have adapted to their new Spider-Man-centric world pretty handily.
Caleb: It's also foreshadowing, kids. This guy is a wuss? So maybe, just maybe, Spider-Man will be able to defeat him, right?
Chris: Yeah, but doesn't that kind of undercut the heroism just a little? "Hey Kids! Get ready to watch Spider-Man beat up a sad man while he cries!"
Caleb: Aw, c'mon Chris, indulge your inner Frank Miller! The sad thief's berating session gets cut short, however, as a mysterious Machine Bem flashes (with his eyes) the police vehicle, causing them to crash. Prof. Monster's ducky ninja goons are immediately on the scene to scoop up Phantom Thief, leaving a bloodied detective to shamble from the wreck.
Chris: See what I mean about not wasting time? Within two minutes we have master thievery, police brutality, a Machine Bem, a car crash and a kidnapping! And hey, while we're on the subject, do the Iron Cross Ducky Guys have an actual proper name, like the Putties from MMPR, or are we going to seriously spend the next 40 episodes calling them "The Duckies?" Because I'm fine with that.
Caleb: They're actually called "Ninders," which is in some ways just as cool as "The Duckies." I may just call them "Ducky Ninders."
Chris: Ninders! That is even weirder than I expected!
Caleb: The weirdness only continues, though, with Phantom Thief 001 hypnotized by this week's monster and Amazoness. His new mission: Keep doing exactly what you were doing, only write "Spider-Man Wuz Here" at each of your crime scenes. It's a little disappointing that we won't get to see an "evil" version of the Spider-Man costume, but PT001's ninja suit + head lamp won't go to waste as he frames Spidey.
Chris: It's the best graffiti-based crime spree since Breakin' 2.
Caleb: As if Prof. Monster's ploy to draw out Spider-Man weren't sinister enough, poor Spidey's girlfriend has set her mind on catching the thief on camera for her newspaper. My plot complication sense is tingling!
Chris: This leads to a pretty weird scene where Hitomi tells Takyua about this crazy new monster running around, and he's like "Ha! That monster doesn't exist, stupid!" And I seriously cannot understand this. I mean, I guess he's trying to play off his interest in the monster so that she won't suspect he's Spider-Man, but we're three episodes into Takyua not really giving a stone damn if anyone uncovers his secret identity. Plus, saying "that monster doesn't exist" in a world where monsters are showing up to cause trouble on a weekly basis doesn't really make you sound like you're not a super-hero, it makes you sound like you're a f***ing idiot.
Caleb: Well, as proven by every teen movie, some cute girls love stupid dudes. I'm hoping Takyua's just sticking with what's worked for him thus far.
Chris: Still, it's a pretty weird move on Takuya's part, and since this is a dude known for weird moves, that's saying something.
Caleb: Despite his aloof actions in his personal life, Spidey prudently follows his girl Hitomi as she hits a stakeout with Detective Matsumoto, hoping for a chance to capture the guy ruining his rep as a hero. Detective Matsumoto's agreed to have a cute young photographer follow him around both to report on his pending heroic actions, and also to be the subject of (at least partially good-humored) sexist, condescending remarks.
Chris: This is, of course, the same detective who was on the trail of PT001, who you would think would be smart enough to see through the spraypainted signatures, considering that he knows PT001 escaped, and that signing one's crimes with "This crime was definitely committed by Spider-Man and not Phantom Thief 001" isn't really going to fool anyone.
Caleb: It's dark enough out that I guess nobody notices as PT001 flees the scene, with Spidey hot on his trail. Used to his nightly grind as Spidey, Takuya is up having breakfast with his brother and sister, getting teased for reading the paper during meals the same way his late father did. Spidey's sister also brings up their (presumably) late mother, who would always scold their dad for such rude behavior. Little do they know he's just scanning the old version of the Internet for news about monsters and such. He's so busy, in fact, that he hardly pays an exhausted Hitomi much mind as she shambles into their house ready to scarf down some grub.
Chris: When you say that it's dark out so they don't notice PT001 fleeing the scene, you're leaving out the fact that it's apparently so dark that they also don't notice a giant insect monster shooting pink lasers out of his eyes at Spider-Man. But yes, Hitomi is foolish and clumsy.
Caleb: Takuya then takes to his room to ponder his next move. He's well aware of Prof. Monster's plot, so he deduces PT001's next move by, you know, pointing at a map or whatever. Let's just call it Spider Sense. That night, he takes to the streets and it's not long before he sees a dude casually walk into traffic and perform an amazing flip over a car. Hypnotized bad guys just can't help but show off!
Chris: It's not his only acrobatic feat, either! When PT001 drops onto the road behind Takuya, he does so by parkouring off a ledge where someone has spraypainted the words "BLACK DUSTY."
Caleb: Wise to PT, Takuya quickly dons his Spidey costume and confronts the thief atop a very tall office building. Unfortunately, the Ninders attack. As Spider-Man takes on the ducky dudes, Amazoness and Pink Flash Eye Guy decide to execute PT for... doing exactly what they asked him to? Spidey is all heart, however, and saves the thief from plummeting off the side of the building. Japanese Spider-Man uses a big web net instead of aiming one strand straight at the dude's leg, though. You know, so that nothing bad happens to his neck...
Chris: Oh snap! Spider-Man also summons his sweet car, the Spider-Machine GP7, out of... I guess a garage that he keeps it in when it's not flying around in his giant lion robot? Either way, he and PT001 go for a ride so that they can have a heart-to-heart.
Caleb: It turns out PT001 ain't evil or nothing, he's just plum confused. The kid was born an amazing acrobat so, inspired by the joy circuses brought to him as a child, has simply been stealing to fund a circus of his own. He's like Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to... the smiles of children.
Chris: My favorite part of this is that PT001's giving Spidey this sob story, and Spider-Man's like "Oh, so you stole that money so you could start your own circus?" And PT001's like "Uh, yeah! Yeah, that's totally what I was doing." It comes off like a total con.
Caleb: Clearly PT001 never read many DC comics, or he'd know circus life was probably a bad idea. It's possible he'd read Marvel titles, though, and just wanted to party with a Loki-controlled Hulk.
Chris: Spidey tells PT001 that even if he was trying to make children happy, he wouldn't be able to do it with stolen money. Because if there's one thing that children always do at a circus, it's ask where the funding came from. That is definitely what they care about.
Caleb: "Those clowns seem happy, a little too happy. Does the IRS know about this?" (or I guess, the NTA, in Japan.) The Iron Cross Army catches up with Spidey and the reformed PT001, who immediately turns himself into the police as Spider-Man dodges Ninders on a tea cup ride.
Chris: This fight scene is actually pretty awesome. Well, relatively awesome, anyway. Spider-Man fighting bad guys at an amusement park has a ton of potential, and to be fair, in the two minutes they spend on it, they give us Spidey crawling on the underside of a rollercoaster track while the Duckies ride in the car waving their swords, and bad guys on trampolines.
Chris: It's pretty cool, even if it ends with the Ninders running away from regular cops.
Caleb: I'd run too, those guys have guns.
Chris: "Professor Monster ain't payin' us enough to get shot!" I also love that Spider-Man is clearly wearing little pink slippers over his boots when they're fighting in the dirt.
Caleb: I hear it's where Andrew Garfield got the idea to put silver flip-flops on under his movie costume. With shoes in tow, Spider-Man swings out into the local wasteland where he's known to kill monsters and Mr. Flashy is waiting for him. A few punches later, he's revealed to be Genyouchu. Note: Don't ever do a Google image search for "Genyouchu." ComicsAlliance is not responsible for what might happen.
Chris: In the mean time, let's have a look at this week's Monster Breakdown!
Appearance: He's like a greenish version of Pokemon's Butterfree with legs and crab arms.
Primary Weapon: Blinding pink optic flashes capable of hypnosis, but worthless in sunlight
Secondary Weapon: Claws
Tertiary Weapon: Powerful wings capable of generating strong gusts of wind
Rating: 2 out of 5
Chris: I like how Genyouchu opens with growing super-huge. He does not spend any time at all on normal-size fighting, and from there on out, it goes about like you'd expect. I wonder if Professor Monster and the BEMs have caught onto the fact that this is pretty much the last thing they do before they die, and Genyouchu's actually suicidal. That said, he's probably still surprised when Spider-Man starts firing missiles at him from under the hood of his car.
Caleb: Considering this episode's breakneck pacing, there's an especially nice Leopardon transformation sequence before the robot gets down to slaying the beast before him.
Chris: It's like the extended club mix of giant lion robot transformations. "Change Leopardon! (DJ Supaida Remix)"
Caleb: The transformation is followed by the especially epic introduction of Leopardon's missile fists and "arc turn," which is similar to Wonder Woman using her tiara as a deadly boomerang. Genyouchu tries to counter these moves with his gross mouth rope, but it's to no avail. Leopardon launches his Sword of Vigor and it's all over for Butterfree With Arms and Legs.
Chris: And then, in typical fashion, the episode just slams to a halt. I guess PT001 cleared Spider-Man's name and then was sent to prison while crying. Good Guys Win!
Caleb: Alas, Spider-Man's lonely battle continues since he still doesn't know the hidden location of Prof. Monster and co. If he did, he'd just drive Marveller over there and nuke them all and we wouldn't have 38 more episodes to watch!
Chris: So Caleb, what's your pick for The Craziest Thing About This Show this week?
Caleb: I'd say its Spider-Man confidently standing in front of a hapless monster and calling him a fool for trying to blind him with its light with the sun out. Considering how deadly his pink blasts proved at night, you'd think they'd still feel like staring into the sun during the day, but I guess Spider-Man's eyes are special.
Chris: Don't forget that he also flashed Spider-Man with them at night, which also had no effect other than making Spidey look sort of startled.
Caleb: I'm beginning to suspect that his mask has some baller lenses.
Chris: My pick was pretty tough. I mean, this is probably the closest we're going to get in this show to "our" Spider-Man, or even American comics in general. It's got all the plot twists we know and love, from mistaken identities and hypnotized dupes to actual circus acrobat orphans. That said, I have to go with the part at the beginning where Takyua has some quiet reflection at sunset about how much he "resents" the Iron Cross army.
Caleb: Yeah, considering the show's outro jam is all about his dead father, it's a pretty funny translation. "Man, I can't stop being frustrated with the guys who killed my dad. Grrrr."
Chris: And with that, we come to the close of another episode, and even though the monster was basically unnecessary and felt like it was added in as an afterthought just to keep up the formula, this was my favorite so far.
Caleb: See you guys next time.
Chris: Until next week, don't let your voraciousness trump your charms!